It’s more difficult to understand why socialism doesn’t work than you might think

The reasons are explicable but they are very difficult to understand without a thorough knowledge of how economies work.

From Instapundit

GLORIA ALVAREZ ON REASON TV: Socialism Fails Every Time (Video):


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It certainly has a lot of bad luck associated with it, for some inexplicable reason.

For an explanation, you need to go to what is known as the Socialist Calculation Debate, and then be prepared to spend a long time thinking it through. You can easily see that all such experiments have failed in the past, but that is empirical, and never convinces since it is always different next time, at least when it all begins. The end point is always The Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela, and never Denmark or Sweden, but why?

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56 Responses to It’s more difficult to understand why socialism doesn’t work than you might think

  1. stackja

    Socialism the dream that always end as a nightmare.

  2. Tim Neilson

    The end point is always The Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela, and never Denmark or Sweden, but why?

    Give Denmark and Sweden time. They’ve been running down the reserves they built up in their free market era for a while. Sure they still look ok (apart from the gang [email protected], but then again we’ve got so much to learn from non-western cultures) but then again Venezuela looked good not that long ago.

  3. Roger

    The end point is always The Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela, and never Denmark or Sweden, but why?

    1. Envy is not a good starting point for a political system.

    2. Human beings are not perfectible; wise political systems take account of this.

  4. Roger

    And what Tim said re Denmark & Sweden; they are living off considerable reserves – not just of reserves of wealth but of a culture and morality that exhorted to hard work & deferred gratification for the preservation of family and nation.

  5. egg_

    ‘Some animals are more equal than others’ is likely a big hint.

  6. Roger

    Liberty Quote

    The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.

    — Winston Churchill

    Alas, Churchill was somewhat mistaken – Socialism doesn’t share misery equally, the ruling elites do quite well out of it, while the masses are left in misery.

  7. Iampeter

    The reasons are explicable but they are very difficult to understand without a thorough knowledge of how economies work.

    In the words of Yoda, “THIS is why you fail”.

    The reason socialism fails is not that complicated and requires ZERO knowledge of economics.
    What it requires is knowing how to think, which in turn allows you to know how the world works, which in turn let’s you answer questions like this in one sentence.

    Here goes:
    Socialism fails because it is altruistic, which means it is immoral and immoral ideas don’t work in practice.

    That’s it. If you’ve let the debate move into economic arguments then you’ve already lost the debate.
    Which is of course what everyone does and is why socialism is still around today.

  8. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Roger, Winston was actually right- the elites don’t enjoy being forced to rule, but someone has to sacrifice their time to make decisions, and would you want the ignorant masses doing it? They wouldn’t know what to do! Look at Brexit, as an example of democracy. Who needs this ‘freedom’?

  9. Trax

    To create equity and reduce freedom requires force. Force requires a police state and significant resources which is only held in check by the limit to the resources it can consume to perform the force required.

    All political systems require a hierarchy, since socialism destroys a hierarchy based on merit it instead creates one based on a combination of force and popularity. This then only consumes resources as it has no function based on competent resource allocation.

    Removing the incentive to perform better necessarily removes everyone’s motivation and drive to perform even at an average level, especially considering most productivity resides in a fraction of the population (see Price’s Law).

    It should be possible to demonstrate one or all of these things to people.

  10. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    I think that Socialism is popular because our genes are disposed that way. For years, humans lived in small family groups, and decided things communally. The Aborigines did this. It’s only recently that we have broken away from the idea that there is no alternative. Socialism is the belief that we should all be one big family, even if we aren’t.
    We might never stop people reacting this way, and some degree of compassion is good, but I object to the attempt to make it compulsory.

  11. Baldrick

    Margaret Thatcher said it best, “The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

  12. .

    The reason socialism fails is not that complicated and requires ZERO knowledge of economics.

    No, totally wrong. Go back to the factory boy.

    Socialism fails because it is altruistic, which means it is immoral and immoral ideas don’t work in practice.

    Explain why the mafia has existed for at least 350 years.

    Explain why socialism wins politically.

    Explain why the Plantagenants and their heirs ruled England for over 4o0 years with no goal other than amassing dynastic or personal wealth.

  13. Roger

    It’s only recently that we have broken away from the idea that there is no alternative.

    Define ‘recently’.

    The right to private property was enshrined in the Mosaic law.

  14. Social justice = everyone is equally poor and poorly off.

  15. NuThink

    Because socialism requires altruism to exist in reality and not just in the imagination.
    There is always that little real world practical problem of “what’s in it for me?

    The brilliant Dinesh D’Souza on the hypocrisy of the SJWs and so called white privilege campaigners (see from about 10:00 onwards in his response to a student question).

  16. Roger

    Because socialism requires altruism to exist in reality and not just in the imagination.

    But altruism does exist in reality, NuThink.

    The problem is it can’t be compelled.

    Therefore Socialism must resort to state sponsored theft.

  17. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    Alas, Churchill was somewhat mistaken – Socialism doesn’t share misery equally, the ruling elites do quite well out of it, while the masses are left in misery.

    Well said. May I steal that quote, and use it?

  18. egg_

    The brilliant Dinesh D’Souza on the hypocrisy of the SJWs

    One little SJW piggy who feels guilt, but won’t give up his privileges.

  19. NuThink

    Roger, I tend to follow the idea that people being altruistic actually benefit in someway (feeling good, looking for some acknowledgement, afraid of the consequences or guilt of not helping, benefiting society etc) so therefore it cannot exist.
    I grew up thinking that socialism and communism were altruistic, but as you say it cannot be compelled which is what the so called socialists and so called communists tried to do.
    Also to me the communistic countries were never communist but totalitarian, and used the allure of communism (share and share alike – everyone is equal) to hook the masses. If they were communist they would have not have had the leaders living in splendour while the masses lived their humdrum lives.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/hide-and-seek/201203/does-true-altruism-exist

    However, many psychologists and philosophers have argued that there is, in fact, no such thing as true altruism. In The Dawn, the 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche maintains that that which is erroneously called ‘pity’ is not selfless but variously self-motivated.

    Altruistic acts are self-interested, if not because they relieve anxiety, then perhaps because they lead to pleasant feelings of pride and satisfaction; the expectation of honor or reciprocation; or the greater likelihood of a place in heaven; and even if neither of the above, then at least because they relieve unpleasant feelings such as the guilt or shame of not having acted at all.

  20. BoyfromTottenham

    Roger, re you ‘Therefore Socialism must resort to state sponsored theft’. I am no socialist, but I could argue similarly that income taxes are ‘state sponsored theft’ in our capitalist system. I would make the point that no government can exist prior to the society that it wants to govern having a certain amount of excess wealth over and above meeting the basic needs of its citizens, otherwise any government would be unable to levy any taxes for any purpose for lack of wealth. There are IMO plenty of examples in history of countries operating perfectly well (by the standards of the time) without a central government. I believe that governments, and therefore taxes, generally arise because of a need, such as raising funds to pay for a war. The UK did not have an Income Tax or Company Tax prior to WW1, it relied mainly on revenue from Customs and Excise duties (import taxes), and the role and the cost of government was commensurately very small. However, once implemented and the war won, taxes rose steadily, under parties of all stripes, to this very day. Bad capitalism is probably as bad for the general populace as bad socialism, but at least capitalism offers hope of a better future for those who aspire to personal betterment. I’m afraid I cannot say this of socialism. BTW, interest rates have an important role in keeping a rein on the fiscal irresponsibility of governments. We can all, however, see that ZIRP has been abused by almost all governments, whether capitalist or socialist. Maybe we should discuss this instead of arguing about ideology!

  21. Iampeter

    But altruism does exist in reality, NuThink.

    The problem is it can’t be compelled.

    That’s a contradiction.
    Altruism puts something above the interests of the individual as the standard. This not only necessitates compulsion but makes it moral too. This is why ALL altruist ideologies end with “state sponsored theft” and worse, when taken to their logical conclusion, not just socialism. E.g. Fascism, environmentalism, nationalism, religion, racism etc.
    To oppose compulsion you need to be an egoist (the opposite of an altruist).
    This means putting the interest of the individual first and on this basis compulsion becomes a violation.
    Once you’ve embraced egoism and individualism, then rights protecting government and capitalism logically follow. No need for any economics knowledge.

  22. .

    Altruism puts something above the interests of the individual as the standard. This not only necessitates compulsion but makes it immoral too.

    This is a farily deep statement. A grandmother going to babysit her grandchildren is “altruistic”, but she has reasons for doing it, and receives a benefit.

    I’m not sure how that ends in compulsion or immorality from an individualist perspective.

    Can you give an example of altruism arising organically, without coercion, that leads to state compulsion?

  23. Socialism’s allure is that it offers simplistic solutions. If all we had to do to achieve a perfect society was take money from rich people, then I’m sure someone would have succeeded by now.

    Socialism fails because humans are imperfect creatures. How could imperfect creatures we make a perfect political system?

  24. I am bespoke

    It serves the individual best to hunt in packs to do this you need a common langwidge and basic rules. This isn’t socialists its necessity.

  25. Dumb Redneck

    Socialism will always be a utopia that appeals to the idealistic and for that reason will always fail. Perfectly designed to create a culture of envy and destroy cultures to be exploited by the very groups it asserts to usurp. Brilliant strategy really if domination is your game.

  26. Buccaneer

    The altruism of socialism is a cruel mirage. Altruism exists in the culture of volunteerism and charity, neither of which exist in socialism.

  27. Mark A

    Iampeter
    #2836292, posted on October 10, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    No need for any economics knowledge.

    You live by your principle, grant you that.

  28. Vlad

    Buccaneer

    #2836394, posted on October 10, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    The altruism of socialism is a cruel mirage. Altruism exists in the culture of volunteerism and charity, neither of which exist in socialism.

    Almost perfect…. but the missing prime ingredient is spiritualistic. Socialism believes the ingredient to be superfluous to altruism.

  29. DrBeauGan

    You are discussing the stability of a complex dynamical system, without knowing the relevant language. So you are making a mess of it. You have partial and fragmentary contributions (except Iampeter who is burbling. As usual.).

    I suggest you consider a simpler but related problem: Suppose there were a country where everyone who lived there always told the literal truth and was completely honest and reliable. In this country, everyone trusts everyone else.

    Who would stand to gain most from migrating into that country?

  30. I am bespoke

    Who would stand to gain most from migrating into that country?

    easy a liar and thief.

  31. DrBeauGan

    easy a liar and thief.

    Full marks. Conmen (and let us not be sexist, conwomen) would consider it a paradise.

    The dynamics are fairly obvious if they were allowed in; trust would drop dramatically, and scepticism would come. People would want a certificate saying you were one of the good guys, and they’d be forged. After a time, you’d restrict your trust to immediate family and friends. Strangers would have a hard time.

    OK, next question. Suppose there were a country where each was given according to his needs, and each contributed according to his ability. Who would think this a really good system? And who would think leaving the country might have its attractions?

  32. struth

    Socialism is easily seen as morally wrong.
    You do not need to understand economics to be able to see that.
    Those who have the vilest human traits are attracted to it.
    It requires envy and laziness and a burning desire to escape personal responsibility.

  33. DrBeauGan

    struth
    #2836487, posted on October 11, 2018 at 7:20 am
    Socialism is easily seen as morally wrong.
    You do not need to understand economics to be able to see that.
    Those who have the vilest human traits are attracted to it.
    It requires envy and laziness and a burning desire to escape personal responsibility.

    True but irrelevant. The question is why does it regularly collapse, usually into tyranny?

  34. John Constantine

    In Australia we see our quisling commo leaders like rudd Gillard turnbull flee to their millionaires dachas in ‘deposed dictator row’ next to the united nations on Manhattan Island, the new Elba for their left’s new Napolean class.

    They were simply monomaniacs, posing as commos so they could use a conga line of Australian proles faces as stepping stones they could stride along in their Jackboots, stride towards their end goal of hanging around the dunnies at the Manhattan united nations building, praying for their mardi gras payoff.

    Godless commo totalitarian hellholes fail because of the worthless corrupt scum that are the only ones that can rise to the top and rule them.

    Comrades.

  35. DrBeauGan

    The answer to the question which of the inhabitants would approve the system is, of course, those with lots of needs but not much ability. And those who would find leaving the country attractive would be those with ability and ordinary needs. They would find themselves supporting the first group. Religious enthusiasm for the beauty and morality of the system might hold them back for a while, but eventually they’d begin to have doubts about that. So they’d leave if they could.

    The dynamics are clear, you’d be left with a country of incompetent losers.

    To prevent this, your leaders have to build a wall to keep the competent people in. They did this in the Soviet union with internal passports, and in the case of East Germany with a stone wall and armed guards. Sometimes, as in Venezuela, they just let them go.

    If they wall the competent ones in, two things happen. First, the moderately competent ones don’t work hard because any money they make more than the losers make will be taken off them and given to the losers. Second, the really competent ones will go for the job of doing the redistribution. That way they can redistribute money to themselves and their families and friends. This is known as corruption in some circles.

    The system is unstable. It can survive only in small tribes where the men in charge of a relatively small group can keep it going by knowing the actors personally. A family or small tribes can keep it up, for forty thousand years or thereabouts. But a sizeable country cannot.

    It’s very similar to the question of why the water fall out of a tumbler when you turn it upside down. Air pressure is quite sufficient to keep the water in. But unless you put a stiff card across the mouth of the tumbler, out it comes.

    In the case of the Soviet union, the equivalent of the stiff card was a police state. And that lasted three generations, one for the enthusiasts to implement it, one for the remaining loyalists to try to hold it together, and one to give up.

  36. Bad Samaritan

    Violence is generally more prevalent in poorer places. Socialism causes poverty….which then leads to resentment and then violence. That’s the permanent connection.

    That’s all there is to it, except to explain why socialism always causes poverty…..

    Resources are scarce and need to be distributed in as efficient a manner as possible. Socialism does away with the mechanism that makes this possible; the market price….the price signal. As a result, with no way of distributing things efficiently, poverty follows and were back to the first paragraph. Cheers.

  37. struth

    True but irrelevant. The question is why does it regularly collapse, usually into tyranny?

    It’s based on stealing.

    Socialism is based on taking private property by force.

    So my point being is you don’t need to be an economist to see that.

  38. DrBeauGan

    It’s based on stealing.

    Socialism is based on taking private property by force.

    So my point being is you don’t need to be an economist to see that.

    Again, true but irrelevant. You have to explain why this leads to collapse. Saying they are a bunch of unprincipled shits doesn’t cut it because plenty of unprincipled shits exist under free market capitalism. And usually, at the beginning of a collectivist state, the guys in charge are highly principled idealists. The early Christians were an example. Hence the growth of an authoritarian church to hold it together when the numbers went up.

    I agree that you don’t need much economics beyond the observation that people respond to incentives.

  39. DrBeauGan

    Violence is generally more prevalent in poorer places. Socialism causes poverty….which then leads to resentment and then violence. That’s the permanent connection.

    Violence can be contained and quite high levels tolerated. Aboriginal tribes were stuck in poverty. Everyone assumed it was the natural state, which indeed it is under a collectivist order. Mediaeval Europe had high levels of violence. But it developed trade and sophisticated systems of finance which never happened or looked remotely like happening in Australia. Forty thousand years of socialism in small tribes had a certain kind of stability. Stability isn’t necessarily desirable.

  40. struth

    The reasons are explicable but they are very difficult to understand without a thorough knowledge of how economies work.

    I’m saying that this is bullshit, because it isn’t difficult to understand.

    It’s only difficult to understand if you are a moron.
    You don’t need an economics degree to understand why socialism doesn’t work.

  41. DrBeauGan

    In free market capitalism, if you are an unprincipled shit who wants to get rich, you have do it by offering people stuff they want at a lower price than they can get elsewhere. This makes them happy. So to get rich you have to make people happy. You might prefer them poor and miserable, but then you’ll be poor and miserable too. The system is relatively stable, because when both partipants in a trade are happy, neither wants to change it.

    The situation in a socialist economy is that there are a lot of unhappy people who are involved in, as Struth correctly observes, theft and extortion, where at least one party is not at all happy. They do not want to leave the arrangement as it is, and it takes force or its threat to contain things. Think taxes. This causes stress, and also leads to poverty, as I pointed out above. Why work hard if your reward will be taken from you? So you get an increase in the amount of tyranny and a progressive decrease in total wealth.

    People don’t enjoy this state of affairs and take steps to change it. Hence collapse of socialism. Guaranteed.

    Of course, even if you cannot see the dynamics, you can’t help but notice that some idiot has tried the sharing caring route every couple of decades for the last two thousand years, and it has always failed. What needs explanation is how come people are so dumb to keep on doing it?

    My guess i that we have a surfeit of born losers.

  42. DrBeauGan

    I’m saying that this is bullshit, because it isn’t difficult to understand.

    It’s only difficult to understand if you are a moron.
    You don’t need an economics degree to understand why socialism doesn’t work.

    I agree. And even if you were a moron, the observable fact that it’s always failed should be enough. Anyone who wants to give it another try really has to explain exactly why it is going to work this time.

  43. struth

    What needs explanation is how come people are so dumb to keep on doing it?

    Yes they are dumb, but it’s inherently envy.
    It’s not having the ability to control your emotions. Socialism is what you get when you let your emotions over ride your thinking.

    Hence, and this is unfortunately true, women are much more easily led into socialism.

    This stems from thousands of years of evolution for men as warriors.

    Men have had to learn to keep thinking clearly at war as a survival mechanism.

    Unfortunately men’s lives have been inherently worse than women’s for all of human history and have required much stronger strength of character, and that strength was constantly tested.

    Women have hardly fought any wars, and never really had to worry about remaining cool under extreme pressure.

    I bring women into this as a way of explaining that socialism is emotion, uncontrolled, unprincipled emotion and that’s why we see women absolutely caving into it in our day and age.
    Some would consider them smart women.
    But with socialism, it’s emotions first, dam the logic.

  44. Dr Fred Lenin

    Socialism will never work. It attracts the wrong sort of people . Look at Australia’s record ,Hawke,Keating rudd ,giliard,all worth far more than any worker ,and never did a usefull days work in their miserable lives . Overseas a few socialists Narx,Ulyanov dzughashvilli , Hitler ,Beria ,bhreznyev ,Castro ,Guevara , pol pot. The Korean royal family ,obummer the Clintons . The dogma attracts all the crap doesn’t it ,it’s a human crap magnet .

  45. DrBeauGan

    My guess i that we have a surfeit of born losers.

    And a benevolent government is hell bent on importing more of them.

  46. DrBeauGan

    The dogma attracts all the crap doesn’t it ,it’s a human crap magnet .

    True. It attracts the born losers who want to be looked after and the shits who burn to enslave them.

  47. John Constantine

    This time it will work, because there will be nowhere to run to.

    Incremental fundamental transformation into a global quagmire.

    The whole point of a borderless world isn’t that people can move anywhere they want to, but that everywhere is the same totalitarian godless commo hellhole quagmire so there is no point moving to another barracks hut in the global gulag because you won’t be protected by your seventy cousins anywhere outside your communal tribal hut.

    Only the political quisling elites get to jaunt around from gated community to guarded elite high rise apartment penthouses.

    In helicopters, so they never spend a moment on the wrong side of the Bollards, out in the shantytown global slumworld.

    Comrades.

  48. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Roger, didn’t Mosaic law also dictate that a man’s property should be kept within his tribe? Private property wasn’t an absolute, and still isn’t. And recently still means a few hundred years. Most people married within the small agricultural communities within which they were born, and died. Only when cities grew big would you be able to meet more people, and expand your horizons.

  49. John Comnenus

    Reagan said it best when he said something like “Socialism only works in two places, Heaven where they don’t need it and he’ll where they already have it.”

    Socialism always ends up leaving you with a lot more dead bodies and a lot less wealth.

  50. Rohan

    DrBeauGan
    #2836512, posted on October 11, 2018 at 8:55 am
    In free market capitalism, if you are an unprincipled shit who wants to get rich, you have do it by offering people stuff they want at a lower price than they can get elsewhere.

    This is a poor analogy. If you are a capitalist unprincipled shit, then more often than not you’re attempting to in some way defraud the person you’re supplying the product or service to.

    In principle, the unprincipled capitalist shit is gaining the victims hard earned in dishonest means just like a socialist does. The key difference is that the victim has recource through the legal system in a capitalist society. Communism on the other hand, usually results in the vocal complainant ending up dying of starvation in a remote salt mine hell hole.

    Principled capitalists supply products or services efficiently, that does exactly what they claim it does, at a highly competitive price. It’s therefore an equitable transaction and that good customer experience results in part to the growth of that enterprise. If they can’t do that, the enterprise fails.

    Socialism offers no such similarity in the supply chain. The customer experience is always shit and if you work hard to get ahead, the state will rip out from right under you anyway. The ruling elite don’t give a shit and their robber-baron lifestyle relies entirely on state derived tyranny. That’s why socialism fails.

  51. Dr Fred Lenin

    You guys are cruel ,look at the industries the left have created , lawfare ,semi indigenius, religion of piss. Greivence,vote rigging , corruption , poofterism , union mafia , unemployment industry ,dole bludging ,abortion baby murder , support for perps of crime ,ignoring victims of crime ,lying big time ,media lying ,grooming schools , industry destruction , criminal migrants ,no firearms ,neglect of borders , to name a few . Their great success is balanced budgets , reducing debt ,lowering taxes ,in 2122 of course . Also creating a rich aristocracy of multi millionaires like Hawke Keating crud ,giliard our of thin air It’s not easy to do all that when you are a party of fourth rate dickheads, you Guys don’t appreciate their efforts .

  52. kurt

    Why not look at places where up until recently a type of semi socialism succeeded, like Germany or Sweden etc? Okay they are mixed economies not socialist but they were highly successful. Why, I wonder? Socialism was born in Germany. Maybe that is a hint. Maybe Socialism has the best chance of success in highly cohesive (i.e. homogeneous) societies with a strict protestant work ethic? Post war Germany turned a land desolated by war into an economic miracle inside of 20 years. At that time the worst insult a German could receive (apart from being accused as an ex-nazi, I suspect) was to be called ‘unfleissig’, not industrious.

    Has even semi-socialism (i.e. a mixed economy) worked in homogeneous societies without a protestant work ethic? Asians are very industrious but they see how the social state has destroyed the family and consciously reject it. They don’t want to pay for an ageing population. They would rather leave that up to families. They don’t need to import migrants.

    Does an increase in migration cause less social cohesion and a weakening of social contracts like a work ethic or personal responsibility? Sweden certainly seems to be suffering. My grandparents got through the Great Depression here in Australia and raised 3 kids without any government help. This was long before medicare or child benefits days. They were life long Labor voters but always proud to say they never depended on the government for anything (until retirement). Nowadays if you don’t take whatever you can get you are a mug.

    It would be so nice if we had real academics who actually researched these type of things rather than just shoving their latest ideological fads down our throats.

  53. Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Kurt, didn’t West Germany succeed when the Chancellor scrapped all the socialistic laws which the occupying authorities gifted to them? Hasn’t India done better when they got rid of their socialist ‘Licence Raj’, which they imposed on themselves after independence?

  54. Norman Church

    I have made this point before. It is important to appreciate exactly what it is people are supporting.

    My strong suspicion is that support for socialism amongst millennials is not for the nationalisation and control of the means of production. Rather, it is for an expanded welfare state paid for with higher levels of taxation on the undeserving 1% we keep hearing about.

    In other words, more “free” stuff paid for by others.

    Still, I could be wrong. It is hard to escape the conclusion that millennials are the most ignorant and ahistorical generation since the advent of universal education. So, no level of stupidity is beyond them.

  55. Kurt

    Nicholas, I think you are right. I don’t think they started to build the modern social state until the 60s.

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